What is Rev. Parris's attitude towards children in The Crucible?
Reverend Parris has the same attitude about his children as he does regarding preaching and living in Salem. He feels it is a burden he's been forced to bear and his is angry about it. He is bigger than Salem, and this sinful small town is the beginning of the end for him. This is the one and only prophesy he has accurrately forseen. His wife has died, thus making him a single parent parent to Betty and now he has inherited the problem child, his niece Abigail.
Reverend Parris has been plagued by the problem of women. He doesn't understand them, he doesn't respect them and, historically, the character that the Reverend Parris was based on kept his Barbados slave Tituba, as his concubine. Salem was a sesspool of hypocrisy and Parris was not unaffected. The attitude that the devil could not touch a minister was exploited and the church was out of control.
In the play, while Parris is trying to keep his unappreciative congregation under control, his niece and daughter has been "dancing in the woods like a bunch of heathen". Instead of solving the problem and chalking it up to "girls going wild", he attempts to hide it because he is more concerned with his own reputation. The episode explodes into an international (or rather a national) incident.
He does seem to care about his daughter when she is sick and might die, but he continues his methods of bullying and intimidation to obtain is objective. He doesn't know how to minister his people, and he definitely doesn't know how to be a father to his little Betty. In the end of the play, his own fears have gotten the worst of him. The women have made a fool of him. His life, the lives of so many in the town, the destruction caused, perpetuated by the Reverend himself, has caused irrepairable damage.
Rev. Parris's attitude toward children is typical of the Puritan attitude in general regarding children. The adage, "children are better seen than heard," represents how most children were raised in towns like Salem during the early days of this country. In the play, Rev. Parris demonstrates several tones toward children.
1. He is selfish when dealing with children, even when it is in regards to his own family members. As the play opens, Parris is worried about his own reputation in the town rather than his daughter's physical well-being and his niece's spiritual well-being.
2. Parris is condescending toward the younger people in Salem. He doesn't stop to consider that the girls might be outsmarting him; he immediately puts down any opposition from Abigail or the others because he is a Harvard graduate and a man--both of these characteristics entitle him to a superior attitude in a Puritan community.
3. Parris is also naive when it comes to communicating with the girls. He doesn't seem to consider at first that perhaps the girls were just playing and that the situation was nothing to spread around or get upset about. He disregards Rebecca Nurse's suggestion that the children were just being children and immediately sends for a witchcraft expert (Rev. Hale).
Miller's background notes before Act 1 also provide valuable information about Rev. Parris's personality, past, and relationship with other community members.